07/11/2007

U.S., Canadian police arrest 37, cut off rowboat drug route

By Paul Egan
The Detroit News

DETROIT Drug and border officials from the United States and Canada said Tuesday they have shut down a drug route that used row boats to move large volumes of cocaine and marijuana into Michigan from St. Joseph Island, Ontario, south of Sault Ste. Marie.

Traffickers were using the boats at night to move drugs across the St. Mary's River into the Upper Peninsula south of Sault Ste. Marie, officials said.

The operation has been shut down after a yearlong international investigation, U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy said at a news conference.

U.S. officials have arrested 13 people and seized about 1,000 pounds of marijuana, 41 kilograms of cocaine and $350,000 in cash, Murphy said.

In Canada, officials have arrested 24 people and seized 1,000 pounds of marijuana, one kilogram of cocaine and more than $500,000 in cash, said Staff Supt. Richard Gauthier of the Toronto Police Service.

Charged in U.S. District Court in Detroit with conspiracy to import marijuana and named as an alleged ringleader is Ahmad Abboud, 29, of Sterling Heights. Charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute are Tony Davis, 27, of Sterling Heights; Yahab Abboud, 27, of Rochester Hills; and Jonathan Yaldoo, 26, of Sterling Heights.

They are free on bond awaiting a preliminary hearing on July 17.

Officials said key figures in the alleged conspiracy amassed significant wealth, and Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rich Isaacson said Ahmad Abboud has an ownership interest in the Plan B and Confidential nightclubs in downtown Detroit.

Michael Kemnitz, a lawyer for Ahmad Abboud, declined comment.

The marijuana, grown in hydroponic labs in British Columbia, Canada, had a potency about 10 times that of regular street-grade marijuana, Murphy said.

Sterling Heights Police Chief David Vinson said effective enforcement and detection at traditional drug trafficking routes such as the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel had forced traffickers to improvise.

"There's no quit in them," Vinson said. "They are going to find new and innovative ways to try to defeat our efforts."

Also involved in the investigation are Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Internal Revenue Service.

Copyright 2007 The Detroit News

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